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February 2017

Blog Tour- Chris Ould- The Killing Bay- Exclusive Extract

51tqvr2jofl-_sy346_Welcome to the next stop on the blog tour marking the publication of The Killing Bay, the second of Chris Oulds’s Faroese thriller series. I reviewed The Blood Strand last year and was highly impressed by this debut introducing the detective duo of Jan Reyna and Hjalti Hentze, drawing a comparison with Peter May’s Hebridean trilogy and the sense of place that Ould conjures up in his writing. Here is an exclusive extract from the new book, and would urge you to seek out this series quick smart…

When a group of activists arrive on the Faroe Islands to stop the traditional whale hunts, tensions between islanders and protestors run high. And when a woman is found murdered, circumstances seem designed to increase animosity. To English DI Jan Reyna and local detective Hjalti Hentze, it becomes increasingly clear that evidence is being hidden from them, and neither knows who to trust, or how far some people might go to defend their beliefs….

‘At the eastern end of the broadly curved bay, Erla Sivertsen panned her camera along the line of people standing on the grass-covered sand dunes above the beach. More were arriving – men, women and children – coming from the road and a line of parked cars. Some of the men carried ropes and hooks, striding purposefully until they reached the edge of the grey sand, then halting to look and assess. No one went further. That was the way of it. You waited until the whales came to the beach.

At each end of the bay there were groups of AWCA volunteers, easy to pick out through the viewfinder because of the light blue sweatshirt they all wore. AWCA, pronounced as “Orca” by its members, was the Atlantic Wildlife Conservation Alliance. They had been on the islands for nearly two months, but this was the first time they had been scrambled, ready to take action, and it seemed that only a dozen or so had made it here in time. Now, like everyone else, they stood with their attention trained on the sea, watching the line of disparate boats ploughing closer and straining for sight of the whales.

Erla shifted the camera again, adjusting the focus on the telephoto lens. There were nearly two dozen police officers stationed at intervals along the line of the sand dunes, all dressed in tactical gear. Some had been brought in by a naval helicopter – clearly a show of strength by the authorities – and Erla knew that when her footage was edited the dark uniforms and bulky equipment of the police would look truly ominous in contrast to the unarmed AWCA protesters.

Having captured the scene down the length of the beach, Erla stopped filming for a moment and checked the progress of the boats out at sea. She’d witnessed four other grinds in her life – the first when she’d been six or seven years old – and knowing the way things would go now, she’d already planned the footage she wanted to get. Video was not her favourite medium, but she knew it would have the most impact when showing the actual drive. Then she’d use stills for the aftermath of the kill.


The whales were still more than three hundred metres from shore but now there was a growing desperation in their movements. They had sped up and broke the surface of the water more often. Their slick, arching bodies were more tightly grouped, as if they sensed that they were running out of room to manoeuvre. And still the boats came on behind them, grouping them tighter, pushing them in.

Finally the larger boats slowed and stopped to let the smaller craft take over and Erla knew it was time. She moved the camera and refocused on the Alliance protesters at the nearest end of the beach, waiting.

And then it started. At a signal the protesters moved into action, each taking a length of scaffolding pipe from the ground and then running quickly down towards the water. No one pursued them, but there were shouts of protest and gestures of resentment from the locals on the dunes.

The protesters paid no heed. They waded straight into the water, using their metal poles like walking sticks to test the bottom, moving out further through the low, rolling swell until they were thigh deep, spacing themselves out at intervals. And then, in a ragged line, they produced hammers and crow bars from pockets and waistbands and started to bang their submerged scaffolding poles as hard as they could, adding to the noise with shouts and whistles.

It was a tactic no one had anticipated and for a moment the onlookers weren’t sure how to respond. The police shifted uncertainly, but then they seemed to receive an order over their radios and left their positions to jog quickly across the sand and into the water. They were followed by several men from the crowd and when the protesters saw them wading into the shallows they redoubled their noise-making and moved further out into the water.

Because the water hampered everyone’s movements equally it produced the strange effect of a slow-motion game of tag in which no one could outdistance anyone else. Whenever the police made headway towards them, the protesters waded deeper or moved left or right, all the while keeping up their hammering and whistling, which became ever more urgent as the whales got closer to shore.

Erla kept the camera trained on this cat-and-mouse game for a few seconds more, then zoomed out and panned round to the open sea. The whales were concentrated together now and behind them the bullying boats had increased their speed. It almost seemed that the whales and boats were racing each other to be first to the land, but then – a few metres from shore – the whales hesitated, as if realising their mistake. A few made to turn back, but the imperative of the boats prevented it, and then, as the creatures finally reached the shallows, the people on the dunes swarmed forward. They ran across the sand and plunged into the water amidst the thrashing of fins and black bodies and Erla held the shot, zooming in slowly on the churned waters and the first men to seize their prey.

Through the lens Erla spotted an AWCA sweatshirt, adjusted the focus and managed to zoom in close on an American woman she recognised, just as she was finally corralled between two burly cops. They were all up to their chests in the water and seeing the whales already thrashing in the shallows, the woman appeared to realise she’d failed. When the police officers took her by the arms she just stood there, and as Erla zoomed in closer she was pleased to capture the look of abject misery on the woman’s face. Even at this distance you could see that she was crying with grief. It was a good picture.

Finally lifting her eye from the viewfinder, Erla glanced around. There were a few spectators nearby but everyone’s attention was focused on the whales and no one took any notice of her as she quickly unclipped the camera from its monopod and started down from her vantage point. Her AWCA sweatshirt was well covered by her red waterproof jacket and there was nothing to tell her apart from the other Faroe islanders.’

 

Catch up with or continue to follow the blog tour at these excellent sites:

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#BlogTour- Orlando Ortega-Medina- Jerusalem Ablaze

image001In Jerusalem’s Old City a young priest and a dominatrix converse in the dying light; on Oregon’s windswept coast a fragile woman discovers a body washed up on the beach after a storm; and in Postwar Japan a young protege watches his master’s corpse burn, with bitter thoughts blazing in his mind. An eclectic collection of thirteen short stories…

I do love it when I am approached by publishers offering me books that take me outside of my comfort zone, as they so often provide some magical reading experiences. Jerusalem Ablaze is one such example, as I rarely read short stories of any description. So it was with a wonderfully blank mental slate that I dived into this intriguing collection…

Orlando Ortega-Medina has produced a remarkable volume of stories that are not only far reaching in terms of location, but also in the very recognisable aspects of human emotion he weaves into his character’s individual experiences. Across the stories, he addresses the themes of love, death, ageing, sexuality, family conflict and obsession with an intuitive and engaging style, that at times brings the reader up short to truly sit up, and think about what they have just read. For the purposes of this review, and so as not to mar your discovery of all the stories in this collection, I just wanted to write a few words on a couple of the stories that made me sit up and think too.

In a guest post at Reader Dad, Ortega- Medina talks about his experience of writing short stories, and makes reference to After The Storm, my particular favourite in the book, and the number of revisions he made to it, right up until the point of submission to his publisher. This story runs to about 18.5 pages, but to me encompassed the emotional breadth and detail of a book many times this length. Focussing on a woman’s chance discovery of something on a beach (no spoilers here), Ortega-Medina constructs a story that is heart-rending and thought provoking, on the breaks in communication, and loss of awareness that occurs in many personal relationships. The story is darkly strange but underscored by an innate feeling of truth and observation that takes hold of the reader, and even in the aftermath of reading reoccurs in one’s thoughts. Susan’s actions seem so totally alien and discomforting at first, but when seen through the eyes of others, are imbued with a real sense of poignancy. Also, the author’s depiction of this wild coastline where Susan and her husband dwell in their secluded lighthouse, is described with such clarity that you can sense the thrashing sea spray, the keening of the gulls, and the smell of the seaweed. Perfect compacted prose that reveals a world of emotion.

The intensity of Susan’s experience set against the broad, unending landscape of the natural world is mirrored in  Star Party, where the theme of human relationships is played out beneath a huge expanse of sky where people have gathered to star watch. I like the way that Ortega-Medina transposes the small but intense insecurities and problems of his protagonists against this broad canvas, which puts our relative importance in the universe in perspective, but never lessening the real concerns of his characters’ lives. Equally, in The Shovelist, the financial security of an old man and his wife is seen to be dependent on the coming of the snow, and his neighbour’s willingness to pay him to shovel their driveway, a fairly humdrum problem you would think, but one that in the author’s hands, explores community and the realisation of, and sympathy for,  other’s troubles.

As much as every story works in this collection as a self contained tale, the two part story of An Israel State of Mind had me wanting more. Narrating the events of a young man and his girlfriend’s trip to a kibbutz, I loved this tale of pent up emotion and unresolved love,  the exploration of difference and misunderstanding, all within the framework of a shared, and what should be a life affirming experience. I think it’s a real feat of Ortega-Medina’s writing that he so quickly enables the reader to connect on an emotional level with his characters in this story and others, when whole books can pass you by without this essential connection as a reader. I still want to know what happens to these characters beyond what is written here.

So as a non-widely read short story reader, I gained much from Jerusalem Ablaze, and it has honestly awakened an appreciation of the form for me. An alternately dark, emotional, tender, and violent contemporary collection that I enjoyed greatly. Highly recommended.

(With thanks to Cloud Ledge Books for the ARC)

Catch up with the blog tour at these excellent sites:

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#BlogTour- SJI Holliday- The Damselfly

the_damselflyKatie Taylor is the perfect student. She’s bright and funny, she has a boyfriend who adores her and there are only a few months left of school before she can swap Banktoun for the bright lights of London. Life gets even better when she has an unexpected win on a scratch card. But then Katie’s luck runs out. Her tragic death instead becomes the latest in a series of dark mysteries blighting the small town. The new school counsellor Polly McAllister, who has recently returned to Banktoun to make amends in her own personal life, is thrown in at the deep end as the pupils and staff come to terms with Katie’s death. And it’s not long before she uncovers a multitude of murky secrets. Did Katie have enemies? Is her boyfriend really so squeaky clean? And who is her brother’s mysterious friend? With Banktoun’s insular community inflamed by gossip and a baying mob stirring itself into a frenzy on social media, DS Davie Gray and DC Louise Jennings must work out who really murdered Katie before someone takes matters into their own hands…

Having previously reviewed and enjoyed the first two books of this series-  Black Wood and  Willow Walk – it’s time to return to the dark and murderous world of the residents of SJI Holliday’s small Scottish community of Banktoun in The Damselfly. Be prepared for some unsavoury goings on…

Once again there is a seamless interweaving of the characters and events from the previous two books, but for those who have not discovered this series yet, fret not if you join in the deliciously dark fun at this later point. Holliday has a great way of placing her characters in differing scenarios of importance, but by the same token moving them forward through changes in their lives, or returning them to their roots after time spent away. In this way, there is an incredibly real fluidity to the lives of her characters, reflecting the natural changes that people undergo in terms of their jobs and relationships, but the lure of one’s roots plays a major part. Generally speaking, I think the central enjoyment of these books for me is the strong sense that you are reading about real people, not those mind-numbingly witless and largely unbelievable middle class creations, that are currently infesting the world of psychological crime fiction. Holliday’s people are a sublime mix of the well-adjusted, and the emotionally damaged, and the observational style of her books as she puts them through various forms of self doubt, or emotional trauma, is done extremely well, undercut by Holliday’s now trademark dark humour.

Likewise, with the story focussing on a broken family and the difficulties of adolescence, Holliday draws on the world of social media- warts and all- to explore the communicative habits of her younger protagonists, and how they use it as a conduit for their problems and insecurities. I must confess that I usually get very frustrated reading books that put teenagers front and centre, but Holliday manages to avoid well-worn stereotypes, and balanced out the mix of the good, the bad and the ugly adolescents very well, and neatly exposes the twisted loyalties, immaturity or plain fear that hampers the police investigation into a young girl’s death. Throughout the book, Holliday neatly uses her younger protagonists to toy with our empathy, drawing on the differences of their backgrounds, although interestingly a more privileged upbringing is certainly no guarantee of a better moral compass, and the theme of family loyalties and jealousy plays a major part throughout.

Throughout this tricky investigation the steadfast figure of recently promoted DS Davie Gray stands tall, where his innate knowledge of the town’s residents proves both useful or difficult in equal measure. He is an open-minded and fair copper, but underscored by a steely determination to catch Katie’s killer, even if it sets him at odds with the community. I enjoyed his partnership with DC Louise Jennings, and the slight air of tension that exists between them, for reasons that you will discover for yourselves. Also big kudos for Holliday, for further exploring one of the more minor characters from the previous books, in the shape of ex-addict Quinn, and I enjoyed the way he was realistically interweaved into the turbulent history of Katie’s family.

I will confess to being a little disappointed in the expose of the killer’s identity, in terms of the intriguing red herrings that Holliday puts in our path, but nonetheless a few hours spent in the community of Banktoun, with its dark deeds and disparate residents is never wasted. Whether this is your first visit, or you’re up to speed with the series to date, it’s a recommended read from the Raven.

(With thanks to Black and White Publishing for the ARC)

 

Missed a stop? Catch up with the blog tour at these excellent sites:

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#BlogTour- Su Bristow- Sealskin

sealskinWhat happens when magic collides with reality? Donald is a young fisherman, eking out a lonely living on the west coast of Scotland. One night he witnesses something miraculous and makes a terrible mistake. His action changes lives – not only his own, but those of his family and the entire tightly knit community in which they live. Can he ever atone for the wrong he has done, and can love grow when its foundation is violence?

Prepare to be completely entranced by Sealskin, a mystical and emotive novel by debut author, Su Bristow. Set in a small fishing community on the west coast of Scotland, Bristow weaves a magical tale tinged with sadness, regret and violence drawing on the traditional folkloric stories of shape-changing Selkies, and their mesmeric effect on the hapless men that encounter them. One such man is Donald Macfarlane, a formerly quiet and naïve individual, who experiences a phenomenal change of character to forcibly abduct a young Selkie woman, and integrate her into his family and community. What transpires is a story, that in its seeming simplicity, explores many threads of human nature, and the real meaning of community, family and love…

I was instantly held in the swirling, mystical air of this story, and quickly developed an instant feeling of empathy or strong dislike for the characters contained within it. The way that Bristow explores the changes that Mairhi’s arrival in this close knit community, and on those who dwell within it, is a constant source of enjoyment throughout the book. Mairhi’s influence on a whole array of individuals, for better or worse, exposes some real schisms in the community, and behaviour that was previously overlooked or accepted comes to be exposed as truly the opposite. There is a real growing in strength in some of the female characters in particular, and by the same token, a noticeable reigning in of the arrogant and violent behaviour of some of the male residents. The way Bristow leaves her without verbal communication allows us to view her as a human prism through which other’s behaviour is seen and judged, and although not wholly childlike she does have this aura about her. The changes she brings to Donald’s character in particular is striking, exposing a man formerly crippled by insecurity in a community where masculinity is prized, who grows in stature and confidence as he builds a life with her.  In the day to day lives of the village’s inhabitants, Bristow carefully navigates the realm of the real and the spiritual, drawing in the themes of the tough existence of the fishermen, the influence of religion in the community, and the adherence to the old ways of natural cures and respect for the traditional. This is very strong in Donald’s mother, Bridie, who practices, and is regularly called on for, her craft in traditional cures,  and the community as a whole exposes division and suspicion roughly drawn along the lines of those who subscribe to the retaining of tradition and those that embrace the folkloric. Hence, the arrival of Mairhi, is cause for further suspicion, moments of violence, and an eventful and emotional journey to some degree of acceptance for more than one character along the way.

Bristow’s portrayal of the bleak and wild coastal landscape is never less than perfect, reflecting the extremes of weather and seasonal changes that impact on this small community and shape their lives. The changeable spirit of the ocean that punishes or provides in equal measure is at the heart of this story, and the author’s descriptions of this windswept terrain, flora and fauna is vivid and tangible to the reader. Whether it is the cries of the seals, the raging of the sea, the hostility of winter, or the blooming promise of spring, the descriptions consistently arouse our senses and form bright, vivid pictures in the mind.

It’s been a while since I have been utterly lost in a book, but Sealskin produced this very effect. Set apart by its difference in subject to much of modern fiction, it held me totally in its grip, and the ending was something special and unexpected too. A book that is tinged with sadness, but utterly magical too. Highly recommended.

(With thanks to Orenda Books for the ARC)

Catch up with, or continue to follow the blog tour at these excellent sites:

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BlogTour- Rory Clements- Corpus

515ioix1vhl-sx3161936.
Europe is in turmoil.
The Nazis have marched into the Rhineland.
In Russia, Stalin has unleashed his Great Terror.
Spain has erupted in civil war.
In Berlin, a young Englishwoman evades the Gestapo to deliver vital papers to a Jewish scientist. Within weeks, she is found dead in her Cambridge bedroom, a silver syringe clutched in her fingers. In a London club, three senior members of the British establishment light the touch paper on a conspiracy that will threaten the very heart of government. Even the ancient colleges of Cambridge are not immune to political division. Dons and students must choose a side: right or left, where do you stand?  When a renowned member of the county set and his wife are found horribly murdered, a maverick history professor finds himself dragged into a world of espionage which, until now, he has only read about in books. But the deeper Thomas Wilde delves, the more he wonders whether the murders are linked to the death of the girl with the silver syringe – and, just as worryingly, to the scandal surrounding King Edward VIII and his mistress Wallis Simpson…

Corpus sets the scene for a new series of novels from historical crime thriller writer Rory Clements, already established with his John Shakespeare series. To be honest if Mr Clements had chosen a different career path, I and others may well have passed their history exams in a much more convincing fashion. Clements packs this book full of political and social detail, not only of England in a time of unrest and uncertainty, but extending the locus of the book to the worrying events across Europe. It is immensely gratifying to read a book that not only entertains and thrills consistently throughout with its compelling storytelling, but that uses the backdrop of historical events in such a clear and assured fashion, so much is learnt along the way too. Although as something of a Red, I’ve always had a lively interest in Russia and the Spanish Civil War, my previous knowledge of events in England, in particular, during this period was a little sketchy to say the least. Hence Clements’ depiction of the political scheming behind the abdication, and the social period detail did prove of real interest to this reader, and what a cast of absolute rotters Clements was given leave to draw on in the process.

The author perfectly incorporates some of the most momentous events from this period to add a vivid and atmospheric feel to the central plot, whilst also touching on issues of class and gender and the constraints of these on some of his protagonists. Equally, there is a studied and dispassionate air to characters from either the upper classes, or those who walk tall in the corridors of power, and who so firmly influence the lives of the masses. Using the Cambridge based American Professor Tom Wilde as a main character, is a clever touch, as the more nonsensical aspects of English and European society and politics are filtered through him to the reader, so we too can stand back and wonder at the rise of the fascists in England and abroad, and just how dangerous the establishment can be. Also by using the hallowed confines of a Cambridge college, Clements has a nice opportunity to expose some of the dissenting voices to the English political system with their communist leanings, albeit from the safety of their academic rooms.

There is an utterly convincing cast of characters in this book, each with an absolutely integral part to play as the plot twists and turns, and dangerous conspiracies are revealed. The reader is truly filled with an intriguing and alternating sense of trust and distrust, but also a real sense of empathy as Clements really does mete out some cruel and unusual punishments along the way. I was particularly drawn to Lydia Morris, a friend of the murdered girl, with her shambolic lifestyle, poetic leanings, appalling dress sense, and her earnest belief in helping others less fortunate than herself, though sometimes this doesn’t pan out too well. Clements really puts her through the wringer, as more by accident than design, she is drawn into the amateur investigation by the dashing Professor Wilde of murder and political skulduggery. They prove themselves an interesting combination as plotting toffs, Russian spies, and debonair double agents seek to impede their progress, and Clements ramps up the sense of peril as their investigation continues. Another stand-out feature of Clement’s characterisation is how neatly he forms our impressions of individuals even if they only have a minor part to play and appear solely at random intervals, leaving behind a striking visual image of themselves, but firmly rooting them into their particular niche in quite an extensive cast of characters.

All in all, I was rather impressed with this one, not only as a tense tale of political conspiracy and derring-do, but also as a very well characterised and compelling historical thriller. Looking forward to the next in the series too. Highly recommended.

(With thanks to Bonnier Zaffre for the ARC)

Catch up with, or continue to follow the blog tour at these excellent sites:

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Catching Up…

_DSC0185 (Common Raven)To begin, I would like to thank all of you who left such lovely messages here and on Twitter during my self imposed break from blogging. Although little has been resolved on the personal front, I have continued to read, but circumstances have curtailed the production of reviews. Realising I’m about a gazillion books behind, here for your delectation and delight is a round-up of some terrific, and not so terrific, smorgasbord of reads that have helped keep me sane along the way and more to come. It’s good to be back, and enjoy!

painted-dollFirst up, all the way from the USA is a highly readable Japanese set thriller, Painted Doll by Jonelle Patrick. Part of the Only In Tokyo series. Tokyo detective Kenji Nakamura is more than a little distressed to discover that the death of his mother ten years previously in a supposed accident, is actually connected to a string of murders of young women attributed to the Painted Doll Killer. What follows is not only a complex and compelling investigation to catch a killer, but also a brilliant study of Nakamura’s emotional turmoil when dark secrets from his own familial background come to the surface. Patrick balances both facets of the book with a deft touch, producing a genuinely gripping crime thriller which wrong-foots and perplexes the reader throughout, and drawing us in emotionally to Nakamura’s travails both professional and personal. The case proves itself to be violent and disturbing in equal measure, and there are some good turns of pace in the narrative. The book is steeped in Japanese cultural references, and proved to be incredibly enlightening about the conflicts of old fashioned tradition, and contemporary society, and the gaps between the generations, as well as being highly informative on Japanese life generally. Suffice to say, I will be seeking out the other instalments of the series. Highly recommended.

crossIn a change of pace, Cross Purpose by Claire MacLeary, quickly revealed itself to be a quirky, but nonetheless absorbing debut. When Maggie Laird’s disgraced ex-cop husband is found dead in the office of his private investigation business, various distasteful truths come home to roost, leaving Maggie financially strapped, emotionally wrought, and drawn into the dark criminal underbelly of Aberdeen. Through necessity, and some cajoling from her loud, blousy and utterly loveable next door neighbour ‘Big Wilma’, who joins forces with her, the intrepid duo set out to clear the besmirched name of Maggie’s husband, but find themselves navigating some dark and dangerous waters along the way. MacLeary’s prose is assured and engaging, bursting with the liveliness of the Aberdonian vernacular, particularly in evidence in the contrasting personalities and social standing of Maggie and Wilma and in the criminal world of the drugs trade they find themselves immersed in. Not only does MacLeary paint an unflinching picture of the sink estates, and those drawn into the drugs trade, but also a simple but effective study of people doing what they need to, to simply get by or to profit by the misery and dependency of others. I found it interesting how every character had some semblance of damage or insecurity in their characters in some form or another, and the way that these flaws evinced themselves in their actions or moments of epiphany. Despite the grim realities of life that MacLeary explores, the book is underscored by a wonderful black humour at times, which drew more than one chuckle or knowing nod from this reader. Really enjoyed this one, and an impressive debut.

51kvpsnjk6l-_sx323_bo1204203200_Right, from Aberdonian sink estates let’s time travel back to 1666 and the Great Fire of London, in Andrew Taylor’s The Ashes of London, where the body of a man is found in the smoking ruins of St Paul’s Cathedral, stabbed in the neck, with his thumbs tied behind his back. So far, so good, and what unfolds from this is a delicious and vivid exploration of London society, and through a world of cheats and traitors, class and gender oppression, and a damn fine murder mystery. Absolutely central to my enjoyment of this book, apart from the perfectly realised period detail, was the character of Catherine ‘Cat’ Lovett, a young gentlewoman, and daughter of a notorious regicide, condemned to live with grasping relatives. As a result of an attack on her person, she goes on the run, assuming the position of a housemaid, but is drawn into the sphere of the men charged with redesigning London, but into further danger due to her father’s reappearance having plotted against the former king. Cat is a mercurial and striking character, compartmentalized by society by virtue of her gender and class, but with a keen mind and inquisitive spirit which reveals itself in her aptitude for, and interest in the world of architecture. Equally, she is feisty and brave, and has a determination to track down and confront her father at odds with the demeanour that society expects from her being of a certain social class. Taylor’s characterisation throughout is lively and reminiscent of the band of good natured fellows and absolute rotters that inhabit the works of Dickens for example. Outright villains sit cheek by jowl with characters you root for throughout, particularly those labouring for acceptance in the shadow of the sins of their fathers. Taylor conjures up all the sights, smells and atmosphere of the period with aplomb, and provides an intriguing and twisty murder mystery into the bargain too. Recommended.

51xx4wfgial-_sx324_bo1204203200_Now to London in the contemporary era in the company of Kate Rhodes’ Crossbones Yard which has been languishing on my shelves for far too long. The first of a series introducing claustrophobia-suffering, relationship-fearing psychologist, Alice Quentin, who finds herself unwittingly drawn into the world of a serial killer by virtue of her consultancy work for the Metropolitan police. Using Crossbones Yard, a neglected piece of London ground that was used as a cemetery for fallen women as a locus, Rhodes weaves an intriguing psychological thriller, with a sublime nod to the real life case of murderers Fred and Rosemary West. Alice is a likeable enough character, fitting wonderfully into the mould of psychologically troubled psychologist- physician heal thyself perhaps- who finds herself in some degree of peril throughout. Perhaps, because of my voracious crime reading, the identity of the perpetrator of the heinous crimes was a little too obvious quite early on, but despite this I had a resolute compunction to read on, as I found Alice a compelling figure throughout, and found the band of emotional misfits and miscreants she encounters both professionally and personally rather engaging. I have bought the next in the series so that’s probably a good recommendation.

31300946And so to the pseudonymous J. P. Delaney and The Girl Before, the first contender for the mantle of this year’s Girl On The Train. Brace yourselves. Despite my resolution to steadfastly avoid any domestic noir thrillers in 2017, I had already signed up for this one and its attendant blog tour. Having read the book, I then bowed gracefully out of the blog tour (thanks to Quercus for their understanding) as I really, really disliked this book for a whole host of reasons. My trademark tag-line of Grand Designs meets Fifty Shades of Grey, probably tells you most of what you need to know, about this tortured tale of enigmatic, but emotionally stunted control freak architect, entrapping hapless young women in a prison of his own creation. Still with me? Good. Excruciating dialogue and clunky plotting dismayed me further. However, with a prime spot on Simon Mayo’s Radio 2 Bookclub, soaring sales, and probably a film, my opinion matters little. One to make your own minds up about.

(With thanks to Jonelle Patrick for the review copy of Painted Doll, Saraband for Cross Purpose and Quercus for The Girl Before. I bought The Ashes of London, and Crossbones Yard.)

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